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2 Timothy 2:25-26

25 "...God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will". ESV. My emphasis.

Pulpit commentary:

"..there is no real difficulty in referring ekeinou to the same person as autou [meaning in both cases the devil]...".

Ellicott's commentary:

"It must be remembered that the first pronoun in the sentence, "being captive by him" referred here to the devil, and the second pronoun in the sentence "to do his will" referred here to God,..".

Pulpit and Ellicott do not agree. How may we best bring clarity to this difference?

..

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  • Such sudden invisible change from Satan to God is impossible. I suggest when you study or learn the Biblical Greek, you will understand the writers often leave out such repetition. The pronouns are without a doubt refers to the same person. It also teaches you how ignorant are the commentators, in not knowing such basics. It is either God or Satan. The context shows they are snared by Satan to do his will, rather than their condition after escaping the snare.
    – Michael16
    Nov 3, 2022 at 14:40
  • @Michael16 You say "how ignorant are the commentators". Bishop Ellicott's commentary of 1869 does look at what he calls "the almost insurmountable objection of referring the two pronouns to the same subject, esp. when a few verses below, ch.3:9, they are used correctly."
    – C. Stroud
    Nov 3, 2022 at 19:02
  • @C. Stroud After looking at everything again I think you are correct and I was wrong… At the end I edited my answer. So easy to see how both scenarios could fit.
    – Sherrie
    Nov 3, 2022 at 21:34

2 Answers 2

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2 Tim 2:26 says this: (BLB)

and they might come to their senses out of the snare of the devil, having been captured by him for his will.

The usual rules of grammar dictate that the antecedent of a pronoun is the closest; but this is far from iron-clad. In the case of 2 Tim 2:26, the antecedents are just two:

  • the devil immediately before the two genitive phrases "and they might come to their senses out of the snare of the devil, having been captured by him for his will."
  • "God" in the previous verse - a much bigger stretch here.

Here is a summary of what standard commentaries suggest:

  • both pronouns refer to the devil: Matthew Poole; Pulpit
  • both pronouns refer to God: Jamieson-Fausset-Brown; Cambridge
  • "him" refers to the devil; and "his" refers to God: Ellicott; Gill; Bengel

It is little wonder that the OP and most others are confused. Here are some further facts:

  • BDAG suggest that "his will" [under entry for θέλημα for 2 Tim 2:26] refers to the devil's will. If so, it is the only instance in the NT where the devil's will is referenced. In all other instances, "will" refers to that of either God/Jesus, or a human will.
  • By contrast, "God's will" is never spoken of as capturing or ensnaring a person

The simplest solution to this question lies in the use of the verb ἀνανήψωσιν (= they might come to their senses). That is, 2 Tim 2:25 is discussing the problem of the stupor of sin ("dead in trespasses and sin" Eph 2:1); Jesus comes to save sinners and awake them from this sin-stupor because as sinners, we have been captured by Satan to do Satan's will.

By contrast, Jesus says:

John 8:36 - So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Therefore, I would translate 2 Tim 2:26 (using the explicit antecedents:

and they might come to their senses out of the snare of the devil, having been captured by the devil for the devil's will.

Note that this is accomplished by the mechanism in the previous verse:

2 Tim 2:25 - in gentleness disciplining those opposing, lest ever God may give them repentance unto a knowledge of the truth,

That is, it is a knowledge of "the truth" (as imparted by God) that sets us free from sin-stupor.

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  • Mention which word entry of BDAG mentions the quote.
    – Michael16
    Nov 3, 2022 at 3:12
  • @Michael16 - Thanks for the prompt - done.
    – Dottard
    Nov 3, 2022 at 7:08
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I thought to help bring clarity to the the second pronoun of "that one" it would be helpful to elaborate on the previous text. Bearing in mind the snare, the bait being the charisma teachers who in turn were subverting the faith of some, and the patience to be shown by the one to correct those who had swerved from the truth.

Now the Lord's slave ought not to be fighting, but to be gentle to all, apt to teach, bearing with evil, in meekness training those who are antagonizing, if perchance in time God may give them repentance to come into a realization of the truth, and they should be sobering up out of the slanderer's trap, having been caught alive by him for that one's will. Concord literal

Prior to my original answer I never considered this. (Deleted it)

The Lord slave for his object is not destruction, but salvation. He does not aim to wound or disable, but to capture his antagonists alive and subject them to God's will. Concordant commentary.

The Lords patience is so vast among all of us who are prone to go astray. Christ being our Savior, always aiming to bring us back on track when we swerve from truth.

Here's another verse that goes hand-in-hand with this one.

Brothers, even if someone is caught in some wrongdoing, you who are spiritual must restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; looking to yourself so that you also are not tempted. Galatians 6:1

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  • Your whole answer is irrelevant and doesn't address the question at all. Should be deleted
    – Michael16
    Nov 4, 2022 at 6:06
  • @Michael16 Thanks for your comment and deleted my original answer. I put a more simple one in place. That answer may or may not be relevant to you, but you helped clarify some things in my mind and that I am grateful for.
    – Sherrie
    Nov 4, 2022 at 15:12

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